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Erdogan Urges Defense Of Turkish Minority Rights During Visit To Greece

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine (center) pose with members of the Muslim community in Komotini, Greece, on December 8.

During a visit to northeastern Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the rights of the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority to be protected.

Turkey continues "to work hard to improve the quality of life of our Greek-origin citizens, like our citizens. And we believe it is our right to expect the same approach from Greece," Erdogan told a crowd of about 1,000 in the town of Komotini on December 8.

There are an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 Turkic-speaking Muslims in northeastern Greece, and the community has been a major theme of Erdogan's official visit to Greece -- Turkey’s historic rival but also a fellow member of NATO.

Erdogan assailed the "discrimination" faced by the Muslim minority in his talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

The Turkish leader cited the terms of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, which he said were not being fairly respected.

The treaty defined the borders of the new Turkish republic at the end of the Ottoman Empire and includes a portion devoted to minority rights in Turkey and Greece.

Tsipras pushed back on Erdogan's claims of discrimination, and urged him to speed social reforms in his own country.

Erdogan told the crowd of supporters in Komotini that "you are the bridge between Turkey and Greece, we see you like this,"

Some of those attending the speech shouted "Leader" as Erdogan made his way through the crowds.

Security was tight, with Greek police snipers stationed on nearby buildings.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP